NJ man convicted of domestic terrorist
On that gray January day, when the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, came under attack and many wondered if America was little more than a banana republic, Scott Fairlamb emerged as a tough guy. to cook. He was wearing camouflage. He shouted curses. He hit a cop.
Two weeks ago, Fairlamb was little more than a crying hunk, pleading for mercy from a judge in a federal courthouse just down the hill from that besieged Capitol Hill.
âI really regret my actions that day,â Fairlamb said. “I have only remorse.”
The judge sent Fairlamb to federal prison for more than three years – at the time, the longest sentence for one of more than 600 supporters of former President Donald Trump who were arrested in the attack from the Capitol.
But the Fairlamb saga is more than just a lawsuit. The story of Fairlamb, 44, a mixed martial arts specialist who lived with his wife in the Sussex County community of Hardyston and ran a gymnasium in Pompton Lakes, has become a totem pole of our time. Why was a guy who grew up in a cop family – his dad was a New Jersey State Police veteran; his brother, a US Secret Service agent who protected first lady Michelle Obama – did he do justice himself in such an abusive way when he stormed the symbol of American democracy?
The answer: Fairlamb thought his self-righteousness gave him permission to break the law. He considered himself a true patriot. But this false bravado masked another basic truth – that he was little more than a simple garden-type domestic terrorist.
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The judge at the center of American terrorism
Over the past quarter of a century, we have witnessed the evolution of terrorism from what many of us saw as a phenomenon primarily centered in the Middle East and Northern Ireland – with occasional explosions violence in places like Sri Lanka, Colombia and Chechnya.
On January 6, the definition of terrorism took on another dimension. And the judge at the center of the Fairlamb case knows all too well how terrorism evolved.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth is now 78 years old. He was appointed to the federal bench in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan after serving as a federal prosecutor and military lawyer in the United States Army. He eventually became the senior judge of the US District Court in Washington, DC.
A native of Texan, who displayed a University of Texas football helmet in his office to remind visitors that there had not only earned a bachelor’s degree but also a law degree, Lamberth was known in legal circles as a “Strict builder” who followed the letter of the law. The Federalist Society, which has played a major role in resupplying the federal justice system – and notably the United States Supreme Court – with conservative justices, sees Lamberth as a guide.
What many don’t know is that Lamberth knows a thing or two about a terrorism case. This is how I got to know him.
Lamberth presided over two landmark terrorism trials in the late 1990s, both of which involved suicide bombings in Israel by Palestinian terrorists who killed New Jersey residents.
The first focused on the 1995 murder of West Orange’s Alisa Flatow, who perished in an explosion orchestrated by a team from the Palestinian terrorist group, Islamic Jihad, while taking a bus to a vacation spot. in the Gaza Strip. She was only 20 years old.
The second trial examined the murder of Sara Duker of Teaneck, who died in another massive explosion on a bus in downtown Jerusalem in 1996 with her boyfriend, Matthew Eisenfeld of West Hartford, Connecticut. Sara was only 22 years old, she recently graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University in Manhattan. Matthew was only 25, a Yale graduate studying in Israel to become a rabbi. Many friends believed that Sara and Matthew would announce their plans to get married soon. The bombing that ended such dreams was the work of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
I chronicled the two trials in my 2014 book, âThe Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justiceâ. Lamberth has become my legal guide as well as a source of common sense.
What I found is that Lamberth cleverly found the main culprit in these terrorist trials. Yes, Palestinian terrorists were behind the two attacks. But Islamic Jihad and Hamas needed the money. And Lamberth allowed an innovative team of American lawyers to present clear and conclusive evidence that the terrorist bombings by Islamic Jihad and Hamas were financed by Iran.
Lamberth then granted massive financial judgments to the Flatow, Duker and Eisenfeld families and ordered Iran to pay. The judgments were largely symbolic. Iran has never paid a dime – and even Iran’s financial holdings in the United States have not proven to be a great source of money for families. With the help of now-deceased US Senator Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat, the three families – as well as other victims of terrorism such as former Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson who was taken in hostage by Iranian proxy Hezbollah in the 1980s – received money from US coffers to make up for their losses.
But the message was clear: an American judge was not going to ignore the truth about the growing threat of terrorism.
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See through false bravado
Fast forward to this year.
It was Lamberth again, presiding over another terrorism case. Like the trials of Palestinian terrorists in the 1990s, many tried to force Lamberth to look away from the real problem at the heart of the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Even Scott Fairlamb, between tears during his conviction, tried to refocus what happened on Capitol Hill.
Fairlamb begged for mercy, asking Lamberth not to send him to jail. Fairlamb also claimed that while he was in a federal prison after his arrest in late January, prison guards mistreated him.
Damn, what a shock. Perhaps these guards were confused by the way Fairlamb treated their outnumbered colleagues who were tasked with protecting the United States Capitol on January 6.
Federal prosecutors have claimed Fairlamb was one of the first rioters to enter the Senate side of Capitol Hill. Video footage showed him clashing with police officers, at one point shouting, “You have no idea what (swearing) you are doing.”
Moments later, after yelling “Are you American?” Do it like that, âhe hit an officer on the head.
This officer, who submitted a statement to Lamberth for Fairlamb’s conviction, said he still had nightmares about what happened.
After the attack, when FBI agents attempted to question him, Fairlamb texted a friend and told him he would “return” to the Capitol.
But the terrorist threats did not end there.
Prosecutors said Fairlamb tagged Rep. Cori Bush, a progressive Democrat from Missouri, in an Instagram post, saying he “should light your ass” during the attack on Capitol Hill. And just two days after the attack, Fairlamb released a selfie video in which he threatened even more violence.
âThey pulled the pin on the grenade and the power went out,â Fairlamb said.
In court for his conviction earlier this month, Fairlamb attempted to present himself as a gentle lamb. He claimed he did not speak to his brother, the secret service agent, “out of respect for his position and our government.”
He also said that his “life was taken away from me and it was nobody’s fault other than myself.”
To his credit, Lamberth pierced Fairlamb’s cunning.
“The way you hit (the policeman) in the face like that, you’re lucky he wasn’t hurt,” the judge said.
Lamberth then told Fairlamb he was going to jail for 41 months, with another 36 months of federal supervision after his release.
Many who support Donald Trump’s false claim that the presidential election was stolen will cringe at the idea of ââFairlamb being labeled a national terrorist. But consider what he did. He participated in an illegal attack – all because he believed he was on the right side of politics.
This is the same explanation used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad: just being right excuses violence. In other words: if you are absolutely right, you have the right to hurt people.
Fortunately, a judge who knew terrorism all too well saw the emptiness of Fairlamb’s false bravado.
Mike Kelly is an award-winning columnist for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to his insightful thoughts on how we experience life in New Jersey, please register or activate your digital account today.
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